Thursday, September 28, 2006

“Double Jeopardy Trick” Convicts Former Correction Officer

SPECIAL COURT REPORT ANALYSIS

By Richard Blassberg

The conviction Wednesday September 20th, in United States District Court, White Plains, of Paul Cote, former Westchester County Correction Officer, charged with violating the Civil Rights of deceased former homeless,
inmate Zoran Teodorovic, reemphasizes the need for Congress to take a long, hard look at the Unconstitutional double jeopardy such federal prosecutions actually represent. Cote was charged with denying Teodorovic his liberty without the benefit of Due Process under Title 18, United States Code, Section 242. Unbeknownst to the jurors who returned that conviction, Cote had been tried and convicted of Assault in the Second Degree, in July of 2001, in Westchester County Court, serving three months in jail.

The circumstances surrounding the bringing of federal charges, based on the same set of facts, six years after the occurrence, in violation of the Statute of Limitations, serves to further spotlight the injustice of Federal Prosecutors, with far more appropriate issues to pursue, “taking a second bite,” as it were, from individuals that they feel were not sufficiently punished by the State. It’s time our Federal Court System, and specifically, our United States Attorneys get the Hell out of politics, and start that what our adversarial judicial system is supposed to be about, a pursuit of the truth.

What we witnessed in this case was nothing short of a wholesale mockery of Justice. Assistant United States Attorneys Cynthia Dunne and Andrew Schilling were fully aware of the fact that their chief witness Correction Officer, Sergeant John Mark Reimer was the individual whose actions were principally responsible for the irreversible severe brain and skull damage to Teodorovic. In response to being punched in his face by the inmate Reimer, all six foot two inches, 285 pounds of him, threw the assailant into a bear hug crashing him to the concrete cellblock floor, head first.

Reimer had admitted under crossexamination that he had met six times, for a total of seventeen hours, with
Prosecutors Dunne and Schilling in the weeks prior to trial, for the purpose of repeatedly reviewing his prior testimony in the state trial five years earlier, as well as what he would now testify to. That scenario apparently didn’t enlighten this jury. Reimer had been “cute” under cross-examination trying desperately to withhold nformation exculpatory to Defendant Cote. He was so recalcitrant, he was reprimanded by Judge Brieant, whose disdain for the entire case was quite evident.

In pre-trial hearings, many weeks before the trial, Brieant had plainly expressed his belief under a variety of
theories, that, in fact, the Government’s prosecution constituted a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution.

He had spoken to the issue for several minutes, at one point citing Petite v. United States. The case brought against Paul Cote, for two weeks in United States District Court, was merely an attempt to draw more punishment, more time, from someone; in this instance, the man who had been framed in the state trial five years earlier, by a confabulation of District Attorney Jeanine Pirro’s creation. Cote had been tried by Assistant DA Robert Neary, a prosecutor with no compunction about knowingly prosecuting and convicting innocent police officers and other law enforcement personnel. He had done precisely that with former New Rochelle Police Officer Matthew Mc Carrick, falsely charged with Robbery and Assault a few years earlier. Despite his conviction for Second Degree Assault, his serving of three months jail time, his loss of a twelve years career and pension benefits, the United States Attorney’s Office was not satisfied that Paul Cote had suffered enough punishment, given the fact that inmate Teodorovic ultimately died fourteen months after the incident.

It is frightening to witness a jury of seven men and five women, each of whom have obviously left their common sense at home. It is as though they cannot accept the ugly truth that for the Prosecutors it is simply a contest to be won, with no regard for establishing the truth, no desire to protect the innocent, and every desire to crawl into bed with the most deceitful parties to the crime, so long as they tell a jury exactly what the Prosecution wants them to hear, in exchange for immunity, or a lighter sentence.

It is the repeated practice of making deals with the Devil, so often engaged in by state and federal prosecutors these days that diminishes the dignity and relevance of the criminal court system and makes a mockery of what we teach our youth. How can one be expected to view our courts with respect when confronted with unreliable, better yet, perjured testimony, and the subornation of perjury, by prosecutors such as Jeanine Pirro, and Cynthia Dunne and Andrew Schilling?

One would have hoped, particularly following the jury charge and instructions from Judge Brieant, that the jurors would have paid suffi-cient attention to the fact that the so-called eyewitnesses to the incident consisted of Reimer, a most interested and culpable party, and three “jailhouse snitches”: a drug dealer, an attempted child abuser, and an attempted murderer, each of whose testimony contradicted the other two.

As the trial progressed it certainly should have occurred to those same jurors that if the Defendant was actually
guilty of all of the punches and kicks alleged by the Prosecution and related by Officer Reimer, why was Reimer, who admitted that he was, in fact, on top of the inmate, and restraining him, unable, over the course of several seconds, to prevent the Defendant from doing what he was accusing him of having done? Furthermore, it should have occurred to the same jurors that it was Reimer, and not Cote, who had just been punched in the face, so hard that he had “bitten his cheek,” and clearly was responding reflexively when he slammed Teodorovic’s head on the concrete floor. In cross-examination Reimer had been compelled to acknowledge that the inmate’s head had actuallybounced from the force of impact.

It is clear that the concept of “Reasonable Doubt,” as repeatedly explained by Defense Counsel as well as
Judge Brieant at numerous points in the trial, was totally lost on this jury. Given the admissions of Reimer, both in direct, as well as crossexamination, no intelligent individual could, in good conscience, assert that there was no room for reasonable doubt. One can never secondguess what is going through the minds of jurors. I’ve known some who totally abandoned overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and convicted defendants of murder just not to have to undergo sequestration.

Given the ‘peril of the jury’, no defendant should ever be subjected to Double Jeopardy. A remedy, however, exists for the actions of this jury. Immediately following the announcement of the verdict, upon discharge of the jury, Defense counsel Bennett Epstein made an oral motion to the Court asking that the verdict be vacated as “against the weight of evidence.”

Judge Brieant received the motion, reserving decision and requesting a formal written application. That motion and other applications, likely forthcoming from both Defense and Prosecution, were set down for hearing on December 5, 2006.

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